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What Pride Had Wrought

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Love. Romance. These where things mortals did. These were things that started wars, that birthed scandal in the court of an Empress, that brought down a Champion. They were not things that he did. He was above them, because he was not mortal and not swayed by their emotions and feelings.

And then she entered his dreams, and he felt everything change no matter how hard he begged it not to.

 

o0o

 

The mark festered stubbornly on her hand. It was torturing her even in her unconscious state; he knew enough to understand that. It should never have been on her in the first place, none of this should have happened. But it was happening, he told himself, so he had to stay, at least to fix the mess he was responsible for starting.

 

This elf before him though, this elf who so ignorantly wore her marks of slavery as pride; he did not know what to make of her. She was an interference in his plans, a nuisance that should never have come to be, and yet... The more he studied her, the more he looked into her tumultuous dreams; he wondered if the accursed tear in that sky could only be mended by the magic radiating from her hand. So for now, she might have a purpose. Even if every curve of her vallaslin and buckle on her perfectly crafted Dalish armour made him loathe her, he could tolerate her so long as he could still use her.

 

o0o

 

In the waking world, she was exactly what he expected. He knew it from the moment she and Cassandra stumbled upon them next to the rift. The look in her eyes, the seething that she was being forced to work with humans which turned to surprise when she saw him, and then disgust when she noted his bare face. It was for that reason that he was not kind when he forced her to close the rift. He grabbed her arm so tight he knew it would hurt and raised it to the sky. The mark flared and she staggered, faltered from the force of magic flowing out of her and into the rift. It closed the tear, but crumpled her to the ground clinging to her wrist, cowering even.

 

But then she dragged herself to her feet, and Cassandra told her how she owed her life to him, how, without him, the mark would have killed her days ago. And her features softened, the hate faltered momentarily.

 

Then she whispered, “Thank you.”

 

In hindsight he realised that was the moment everything went wrong.

 

o0o

 

She was trying to make conversation with him. How quaint. He would entertain her, for now, and in truth... she wasn’t actually at all what he’d expected. She was still a Dalish, that was not so easily overlooked. But she was different. It had taken a while, but it seemed that once she realised she had no choice, indeed the world had no choice, but to help, she changed. It was then that he took notice of her vallaslin, not simply because the sight of it made him balk, but because he realised now as his eyes trailed every curve and stroke, what her vallaslin was supposed to represent.

 

Perhaps he’d been staring too long, because her eyebrows knotted and she tilted her head.

 

“Mythal,” he whispered and his lips pulled into a dry smile. It could not have been more ironic.

 

o0o

 

Ripping a hole between the mortal world and the fade had been unintended, but it was something that he could fix. Falling in love with her had been similarly unintended, but far less within his power to mend. It wasn’t supposed to happen, it shouldn’t have happened. And yet over weeks, months, he realised he no longer simply put up with her questions about the fade, but longed for them, for any chance to converse with her away from prying eyes. He dreamt dangerously in those months, skirting around her in the fade and getting so close sometimes he swore there was no way she couldn’t notice him, but he had to know more, so he kept doing it.

 

It was no better in the waking world. She made him smile, made him laugh, made him feel guilty for judging her Dalish heritage. She wasn’t like the others, even if they’d raised her. She was ignorant, yes, but not stubborn or arrogant. If he told her the truth, he just thought she might believe him.

 

Her interest in him was difficult to ignore, it was so obvious. Not in the way she spoke, any suggestive conversation between them had been so innocent you’d have to look hard to read it as more than friendship. Instead, it showed in the way she always asked him to accompany her on expeditions, in the faint smiles she’d send his way, the glances that lingered the slightest bit too long. He should not have encouraged it, but he did, because she was so beautiful and so unlike any elf he’d seen for so long. It was his own weakness that would lead to the heartbreak later, but he justified it by telling himself he could make her feel loved, make her feel wanted, if only for a time. As if that would be better than nothing at all.

 

Eventually he obliged her requests to know more about him and visited her in her dreams. He tried to keep things under control, but in the fade it was so much harder to hide his desires. When she kissed him he tried, half-heartedly, to push her away. It hardly worked, and he’d pulled her into his arms within seconds, crushing his lips to hers and blinding himself to reason.

 

After, he tried to pull back for a few more weeks, tried to discourage her. But the damage had already been done and when she helped him free his captured friend, any of his remaining resolve crumbled. He could not push her away, he had to be with her, and he silently begged that when the time came, she would not hate him for what he would do to her.  

 

o0o

 

“You fool!” If every person in the keep heard him, he didn’t care. He had reason to be angry. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

 

She bristled, arms folded across her chest and eyes narrowing to stare him down, but he would not waver. “You gave yourself to an elven god, whether you want it you are inexplicably bound to Mythal’s will. Nothing you do or say will ever be your own again.”

 

“Why does it matter to you?” she replied stubbornly. “You would rather a human had received it?”

 

“It would make little difference,” he hissed and wished he’d had the strength to stop himself continuing, “She is much an elf as you are.”

 

And there it was. The widening of her violet eyes, parting of her lips into the slightest of gapes, and in a flash, unbridled fury. He shouldn’t have said it, even if it was true. But if she’d taught him anything... it would have been that for any mortal he’d encountered that called themselves an elf in this world, she was the one with the most potential to see and change. And she was storming out of the room before he could even hope to stop her.

 

o0o

 

His footfalls where silent on the steps to her quarters. He suspected had they not been, a warning bolt of lightning might have closely missed him by now. He paused when he reached the last step. She was sitting on the floor by the window, her back to him and her arms wrapped around her legs.

 

“Vhenan,” he started softly so as not to startle her.

 

“You’re silent like the Dread Wolf when you want to be,” she interrupted coldly. Under different circumstances he might have laughed for she didn’t know how right she was. “But I’m not an elf, not really, so how would I know?”

 

“I did not-”  he paused with a sigh, then approached her cautiously. “Forgive me, vhenan, I did not mean to... you are...” He cursed ever so softly to himself. Of all times for words to fail him.

 

“We try the hardest we can, Solas,” she replied, and at the waver and softness in her voice, he cautioned to move and sit beside her. “I know you think we’re like children, fumbling in the darkness. Maybe you’re right. But so help me, we do the best with what we have. And I’m sorry that’s not enough for you.”

 

“No, it-” he hesitated, because he knew he wasn’t being completely truthful. “It is enough. You are enough.”

 

If anything, at least his second statement was true and he reached for her hand, his fingers trailing over her arm until they intertwined with his.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered and it was for more than just his ill chosen words but she didn’t reply, only gazed at him with such a longing, loving, trusting look that he wondered how he’d ever live with himself after everything was done.

 

Then, she kissed him, softly at first but poorly hiding her desire. He shouldn’t have encouraged it, shouldn’t have returned it, but he told himself, one more night of pretending before he’d end it. So he pulled her closer, moaned into her mouth and let his fingers slip under the fabric of her clothes. But she pulled back and stared at him, her hands cupping his face and her eyes trying to read him. Foolish girl didn’t know she could never really understand him.

 

“You always said...” she whispered, and he knew what she meant. He’d always pushed her away from anything too intimate. For all his faults and weakness, he’d sworn that even if he couldn’t stop himself loving her, couldn’t stop himself hurting her, he wouldn’t let his desire overcome him. One grace to redeem all his other weakness.

 

But as he pushed a hungry, insistent kiss to her lips, he realised tonight he would break the one promise that he had left to ruin. Later, when she slept, curled in his arms, he entered her dreams. There, he took her vallaslin and her pride, left her bare-faced and broke her heart.  The thought of her waking up to a cold bed and alone, haunted him for years to come.

 

o0o

 

It should not have happened this way, that’s what he had said. It was true. Everything that could have gone wrong had done, and now he had nothing. Less than nothing. He had the pain and grieving of the world on his shoulders, and the anguish of knowing he’d ruined the first real promise he’d seen in the Dalish for years, ruined it with his selfish longing and fear of loneliness. He wanted to forget her, pretend that she never existed, but he couldn’t. What he stole from Flemeth tied him to the Inquisitor irrevocably, a bond no magic he could ever conjure could break.

 

If she’d only refused to drink from the well, he could have forgotten. But she hadn’t and now every time he dreamt she haunted him, tortured him, and she didn’t even realise she was doing it. He’d run from her in the fade, hoping it would make her disappear, but she never would, because she was bound to Mythal, and in so doing, had become bound to him. It was right, though. It was justice.

 

He deserved to suffer for what he’d done.